Beware of Tax Return Scammers During Tax Season
An update from the IRS on the latest scam targeting taxpayers
Tax season is upon us and, once again, the IRS is reminding people to be aware of and alert to potential scams as you prepare and file your taxes. Thousands of people have become victim to tax fraud, losing not only their money but also their personal identification to scammers.
The latest tax return scam has been reported as "ghost tax return preparers" who defraud unsuspecting taxpayers by offering a service to file their taxes. These scammers start by promising a large tax refund with fees charged based on a percentage of the refund they promise to you. Once the unsuspecting taxpayer agrees to this service, the tax return preparer is never heard from again, taking with them your personal identification information and your money.
Red Flags to Identify Scammers
Often, these fraudulent events start with email and phone calls directly to you. The IRS has identified several ‘red flag’ actions that these ghost tax preparers may take, including:
- The scammer refuses to sign the tax return as the paid preparer, and instead, they instruct the taxpayer to print, sign and mail the return to the IRS.
- The scammer refuses to digitally sign an e-filed return as the paid preparer that they have prepared for the taxpayer.
- The scammer requires cash payment for filing and does not provide a receipt upon said payment.
- The scammer makes phony claims about being able to increase the taxpayer's income to qualify their clients for tax credits or to increase refunds.
- The taxpayers refund never makes it into their bank account and instead is directed into the scammer's bank account.
It's especially important to note that by law, every paid preparer, including someone paid to assist in preparing federal tax returns, must have a valid 2019 Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The paid preparer must sign the return and must include their PTIN. Refusing to sign the tax return is therefore the most glaring red flag for potential fraud. If you observe any one of these actions, you should report the fraudster and the fraudulent activity to the IRS immediately.
Be Aware of How the IRS Contacts Individuals:
The IRS generally makes contact first by mailing you a bill if you owe taxes. As a reminder, the IRS will never:
- Call you to demand immediate payment be made using a specific payment method like a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
- Threaten you with arrest by police or other law-enforcement groups for not paying your taxes.
- Demand that you pay taxes without providing the opportunity to question and/or appeal the amount they report that you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
For more information on this latest "ghost" tax scam, as well as additional resources for information on fraud protection and awareness during the tax season, go to: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.
You can also contact your local SIS branch Assistant Manager with any questions, comments or concerns about securing your information online. We are always here to listen and to help!
Cache's Corner: The 5 Weather Apps Most Reliable for Sniffing Out Weather Forecasts
After all the hullabaloo subsided over last month's nor'easter predictions and we were left with less snow than forecasted, I decided it was high time to investigate the most reliable weather apps. Watching my humans fret and pace around the house as they tuned into news broadcasts to track the oncoming storm gave rise to the thought: why aren't they relying on technology for their weather predictions? And so, my hunt began!
I combed the internet for the most accurate weather apps with the best features, and narrowed my list to five:
The Weather Channel (TWC)
Free; Available on Android, iOS and Windows Phone
This is probably the most widely known app for weather forecasting, and for obvious reasons. An extension of The Weather Channel broadcast service, the TWC app provides a wealth of meteorological data sourced from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as from machine learning tools powered by IBM. Users will find hourly updates for temperature, wind and visibility, and current road and traffic conditions. An extended 10-day forecast is also available, as well as interactive maps using Doppler radar (what meteorologists on TV use) to predict and show precipitation amounts and types. This app also sends alerts for severe weather warnings issued by state and county and includes social sharing features so real people can upload real weather happenings and add to up-to-the-moment accuracy.
Free on Android; $3.99/year on iOS
The hyper-local forecasting of this weather app has been deemed impressive and "freakishly accurate" by many users. In fact, while on the hunt for weather apps, I found out that Dark Sky powers the forecasts and weather predictions for a host of other weather app services. Most recently, Dark Sky has been updated to include precipitation maps by the hour, including a precipitation graph, and to-the-moment (down to the minute) for forecasted temperatures. This powerful app still features hourly forecasts, severe weather alerts and customizable notifications for temperature, rain, snowfall, humidity and – in case you have sensitive skin – UV index. You can even get a "weather digest" to show on your lock screen!
Free; Available on Android and iOS
Aptly named (in my opinion) for predicting the true weather pattern in your area, this app has been around for a while on Android and is now available on iOS! 1Weather provides quick summaries of current weather conditions and forecasts at hourly, 10-day and an astounding 12-week timeline progression. It also provides detailed radar maps with customizable layers of data, so you can get down to the nitty-gritty or stay at a top-level view of the weather. This app also comes with widgets and user-enabled notifications for sever weather alerts.
Free; Available on Android and iOS
For those humans who are constantly out and about (seems to be all the humans I meet in Maine!), this may be the app to answer your weather prayers. Why just get hourly, daily and 15-day weather forecasts when you can integrate them into your smartphone calendar?! That’s right, AccuWeather allows users to integrate its weather predicting services right into your calendar, so you can make outdoor plans accordingly! You can also see a minute-by-minute progression of weather for two-hour chunks at a time. And, of course, receive up to the moment alerts for severe weather events like snow, thunderstorms, high winds and tornadoes (that last one may not seem important, but with recent microburst sighting, I’m not leaving anything up to chance).
Free; Available on Android and iOS
Crowdsourcing for weather forecasts? (No, it’s not a social media challenge.) You might want to see it if you don’t believe it; this handy app truly relies on more than 250,000 personal “neighborhood” weather stations for its data as well as the National Weather Service! Weather Underground is a great app to verify reported forecasts from elsewhere. Users can create custom weather maps using this crowdsourced data and overlaying all the information together for one truly reliable weather forecast. Like the others, you’ll receive hourly forecasts up to 10 days, and all the severe weather alerts and moment-by-moment weather notifications.
As they say, when it rains it pours. Searching the ‘net for reliable weather apps opened the flood gates for research on other app services I’ve missed. Hopefully you’ll find these apps helpful for predicting the next storm, or when it’s foggy enough to sneak up on your cat-sister (OK, so maybe I’m the only one who thinks that last one is funny).
'Til next time,
Your pawsitively pawesome pal Cache
New Relationship CD/IRA Available for Bundle Customers
With the revamping of our Veterans Bundle to Heroes Bundle, SIS is back with a special CD/IRA relationship rate just for you! For a limited time, enroll in either our Silver Lining, Golden Rewards, or Heroes Bundle programs, and take advantage of a 30-month CD/IRA at 2.75% APY*. Read more for more details on our bundles and how to qualify for the rate!
Talk to us today about
which Bundle works for you.
Features of the Bundle include:
- Ultimate Checking – truly the ultimate checking account available today with:
- Free ATM access anywhere – use another bank's ATM and SIS pays the fee for you*
- Discount on local attractions
- Relationship pricing on deposit accounts
*Use another bank's ATM and SIS will rebate the service fee charged by other banks if you have an SIS Debit MasterCard®.
Products and Services Designed
for Those 50 and Up!
Receive all the benefits available for Silver Lining plus:
- A separate Golden Rewards Money Market product
- Customers will be eligible to participate in group trips organized by the bank (at customer's expense).
To show appreciation for your service, SIS is pleased to offer a bundle of products created especially for veterans and their families. Now we also offer it for all first responders - EMTs, police, and fire departments.
Receive all the benefits available with Silver Lining plus:
- Heroes Checking – Enjoy the benefits of Ultimate Checking with Forever Free Checks. Plus receive free LifeStages® identity protection services.
- Heroes Savings Account – Receive higher rates as your balances increase with no minimum balance needed to earn interest.
Plus, join one of these bundles and get a special CD/IRA rate.
Relationship 30-Month CD-IRA
For more information, contact your local SIS branch.
*Available for SIS Silver Lining, Golden Rewards, and Veterans Bundle customers only. 2.75% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) available for an 30-Month CD or IRA Special. APY is effective as of February 1, 2019, and is subject to change without notice. Offer valid for new money only. Minimum opening balance is $500.00. $500 minimum balance to earn interest. Fees could reduce earnings on account. A penalty may be imposed for early withdrawal. All terms will automatically renew at the current SIS 30-Month CD/IRA term and prevailing rate.
SIS Bank Sponsors Sanford Farmers' Market Vouchers for Veterans with $1,000 Donation
September is still seven months away, but we’re already looking forward to the fall month because of the promise it will bring for local veterans. SIS Bank is proud to announce our recent sponsorship of the Vouchers for Veterans program that will be hosted at the Sanford Farmers' Market during September of this year. We donated $1,000 in support of Vouchers for Veterans.
Vouchers for Veterans is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that aims to say "thank-you" to military veterans of New Hampshire and Southern Maine. Annually during the month of September, Vouchers for Veterans provides veterans with vouchers to purchase fresh, nutritious and healthy products directly from local growers at area farmers' markets. Vouchers for Veterans has been accessed over 1,800 times by Strafford County veterans in the last three seasons the program has been running, amounting to over $36,000 of community dollars going right back to local farmers. The program was so successful that Vouchers for Veterans was able to expand into other counties for 2019.
The Sanford Farmers' Market of York County was chosen as one of the participating Markets for September 2019. Veterans who have served and reside in York County can come to the Sanford Farmers' Market all month long in September and will receive a $20 voucher applicable to any of the items for sale. This mutually beneficial program allows the York County community to jointly show appreciation for the nation’s veterans while providing an economic boost to local growers, food producers and artisans.
"This is just one more way we can show our appreciation and give back to those who have given so much to our country already," said SIS Bank President & CEO Blaine Boudreau. "We are grateful to our veterans for their service and are happy to doubly support our local growers and artisans with this sponsorship."
For more information on Vouchers for Veterans, go to: vouchersforveterans.org.
Mark Your Calendars! Next Homebuyer Info Night Scheduled
Inform, Educate, and Encourage
So you're getting ready to purchase your first home. How exciting! Maybe you're nervous, anxious, unsure of what to expect. All of these feelings are normal. More than likely you have no idea what to expect. Maybe you already know the basics, but want to make sure you're on the right path. Maybe you've already purchased a home, but are ready to move on to the next and want to make sure you go through the process with more information than you did the first time around.
This one hour seminar (and maybe even a slice of pizza or two) will help ease some of those feelings, and answer some of the questions you may have about the home buying process, all made possible by industry experts. You'll hear about what to expect on the real estate side, different types of loan programs and how the mortgage process works, how to make sure your new home is up to your standards through the home inspection process, as well as the legal process with the title of your soon-to-be new property.
By the end, we hope that you'll feel informed, educated and encouraged as your start your journey in the home buying process!
Industry experts you'll hear from include:
- Kimberly Stewart - Mortgage Originator, SIS Bank
- Ann & Rebecca Lapierre - Broker & Associate Broker, Town Square Realty Group
- Dave DeVries - Owner & Licensed Home Inspector, Northeast Expedite Home Inspections, LLC
- Misty Kashmer - Closer & Marketing Director, Phenix Title Services
Space is limited for this event, so reserve your spot today! Upon arrival of this event, please use the bank's rear entrance located on the Midtown Mall side of the building. Please register on our Facebook page today to reserve your spot!
900 Main Street
Sanford, ME 04073